Andre Johnson doesn't sound like he's happy to be a Texan. According to news on our Texans sister site, Johnson has stated that he won't be going to OTAs or mini-camp, and has intimated that Houston may no longer "be the place for him." Is there a possibility that he could become a Charger through a trade?
The Texans' Perspective
Johnson is expensive. He's the highest paid player on the team with a $12.1 Million cap hit this year, increasing to $16.1 and $14.7 Million the next two years. By comparison, Arian Foster, the Texans' other primary weapon, counts for $8.5 Million this year, and $9 the next two. Johnson is paid like the elite receiver he is, but his production has not kept up with his big contract. Much of the blame falls on a shaky Quarterback situation, but while his yardage has remained steady, his TD totals have regressed. Johnson scored just 5 TDs last year, with 3 of them coming in one monster game against Indianapolis. There is no doubt he can still play, but it leaves one wondering whether the inconsistency falls on the Texans as a team or on Johnson. It is clear that Johnson has his version of the answer.
Financially speaking, trading Johnson may be difficult for the Texans to justify. His dead money nearly equals his Cap Hit, netting them only $180k in cap savings if they trade him now. The Texans do have an option of trading him after June 1, letting them take the Cap Hit for the final two years of his bonuses in 2015. This would save them a little over $800k this year and about $1.18 Million next year. However, could his production be replaced for these paltry savings? Who could the Texans get in a trade to even come close?
The Chargers' Perspective
The Chargers have a star in Keenan Allen, and a lot of unknowns elsewhere in the receiving core. It has been posited many times on this site that there needs to be another WR threat on this team. The Chargers drafted a speedy receiver out of Baylor named Tevin Reese, but he's a raw 7th round talent. Eddie Royal has been solid in the slot, producing well early in the season before the emergence of Allen, but neither he nor Reese is going to be WR2. The incumbent is Malcom Floyd, who has shown flashes of being the tall, jump-ball receiver Philip Rivers had in Vincent Jackson, but his injury history is constantly threatening to cut his career short.
Unfortunately, the injury-plagued Floyd seems the most likely option for trade bait. While it could make sense positionally, the Chargers have to pay to let Floyd go before June 1, to the tune of $1.17 Million. After June 1 seems more likely, when the team would save $1.6 Million in exchange for $1.17 Million in Dead Money next year. Despite that savings, the Chargers would have to pick up Johnson's $6.5 Million salary this year. Already in a tight Cap situation, the only place to recoup that $4.9 Million shortage would be by cutting Jeromey Clary. That's a subject most fans are tired of hearing about, and have all but given up hope on happening.
Trade value could be further bolstered with the addition of Draft picks. For the sake of argument, the Chargers could include a 2nd and 4th round pick in next years' Draft to help offset the expected drop off in production. Would Chargers' fans be willing to lose picks to see Johnson in lightning bolts?
While a nice thought, there is no chance this trade could happen. Financially, it could work out, but that thread is tenuous at best. The real issue is there aren't enough dollars to offset the loss of production the Texans can expect without Johnson, and Draft picks aren't a guarantee for future production. He may not be happy with the prospect of having Ryan Fitzpatrick toss him balls this season, but short of him choosing not to play, the best option for the Texans is to rein in their diva and see what happens during the season. Trading him would be much more attractive next year.